Narcotics Anonymous is a nonprofit fellowship of men and women for whom drugs had become a significant problem. Acting as a group recovery program, NA’s 12-step model is designed to help recovering addicts to meet regularly and help each other stay clean. The only requirement for joining an NA meeting is a desire to stop using. They have no fees, no pledges, and no promises to make to anyone. Narcotics Anonymous reports that their members hold nearly 67,000 meetings weekly in 139 countries.
Narcotics Anonymous Meetings
A Narcotics Anonymous meeting consists of any two or more recovering addicts meeting to discuss their addiction and help each other stay sober. Sessions are based on the principles of the Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions and Twelve Concepts of NA and typically follow one of three formats:
- Speaker Meeting. In a speaker meeting, one or more members share their experience, strength, and hope.
- Open Discussion Meeting. Open discussion meetings are the most common meeting format with topics selected from the Twelve Steps, Twelve Traditions and Twelve Concepts in mind.
- Literature Discussion. In a literature discussion meeting, various parts of the Basic Text are distributed, and frequently all members are given a chance to read aloud to keep everyone involved. Reading aloud is usually not required, but is encouraged.
Some meetings are closed – meaning they accept only recovering addicts. Other meetings may be open, or welcoming of non-addicts who wish to attend in support of a loved one or to gain knowledge and understanding.
Nar-Anon was founded by Alma B. and revived by Robert Stewart Goodrich. It is a twelve step program designed for friends and family members of addicts and is a complementary but separate program from Narcotics Anonymous.
History of Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous was based on the Alcoholics Anonymous program and was co-founded by Jimmy Kinnon in 1953. A year later, the first NA publication, the Little Brown Book, was printed containing the twelve steps. The initial group had difficulty finding places to meet due to an old law prohibiting convicted felons from congregating. At that time, meetings were being held in people’s homes or in the basements of churches that offered the space as a sanctuary.
Due to the newness of the twelve traditions, many Narcotics Anonymous groups weren’t following the program guidelines closely, were accepting money from outside entities, and adding specific religious elements to the meetings. Meetings began to decline in the late 1950s, spurring Kinnon and others to rebuild the program with a promise to uphold the traditions more closely.
The NA White Booklet was written in 1962 and was the basis for all subsequent literature. It was expanded in 1966 with personal stories from addicts and renamed the NA White Book.
The 1970s saw rapid growth in Narcotics Anonymous. In about ten years, the program grew from 20 weekly meetings held only in the United States to over 1,100 meetings held all over the world. In 1971, the first annual NA World Conference was held, and the first World Service Office was opened in 1977.
The Twelve Steps of Narcotics Anonymous
While Narcotics Anonymous is not affiliated with any particular religion, it does have a profoundly spiritual element.
- We admitted that we were powerless over our addiction; that our lives had become unmanageable. Topics for meetings may include surrender, inadequacy or complacency. In accepting your addiction and acknowledging the need for help, you open the door to making a positive change in your life.
- We came to believe that a Power higher than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Topics may include letting go, defining a higher Power and open-mindedness. Here you begin to explorer spirituality and how it can help you rebuild and renew your life.
- We decided to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Topics may include surrendering, making decisions and how to believe. In this step, you begin to trust that this Higher Power will guide you in a better way than you could guide yourself.
- We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Topics include fear and fearlessness, group inventory and self-examination. By learning to understand yourself better, you will learn how to heal from your addiction.
- We admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Topics may include humility, identification, and honesty. After thoroughly examining and accepting yourself, you are now ready to admit your deepest secrets and shortcomings to God and others. Only through acceptance and admittance can you begin to make positive changes.
- We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Topics include spiritual awakening, serenity and character defects. Having accepted who you are, you are now ready to ask your Higher Power for help.
- We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Meeting topics may include patience, principles, and willingness. Here you begin to give up your old life and start again – free from your past character flaws.
- We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. Topics include resentments, honesty and handling regret. By examining the ways you have hurt yourself and others, you can prepare to rebuild those relationships.
- We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Topics include taking action, making amends and being friendly. Making amends involves forgiving others and asking for forgiveness. The risk of feeling vulnerable is something you will learn to overcome throughout the healing process.
- We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. Topics can include understanding the self, vigilance and acknowledging wrongs. True recovery and growth aren’t just about learning from the past. It is also continuing to be mindful of ourselves and be willing to admit when we are wrong.
- We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. Meeting topics may include meditation and prayer, how to reach for help and hope. Here you continue to build on your reliance on your Higher Power as a source of guidance and as your strength.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to addicts and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Topics may include service to others, being a sponsor and sharing solutions. Having found a new spiritual awakening and sense of hope in being able to remain sober, you have a goal to help others learn and heal in the way you have been helped.
Additional Elements of Narcotics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous is additionally grounded in twelve traditions and twelve concepts. The twelve traditions are designed to help keep the program true to its design and intention. These general beliefs include items such as general welfare, the autonomy of each group, being self-supporting and placing principles before personalities. Similarly to the twelve traditions, the twelve concepts have been designed to help form a Narcotics Anonymous group, maintain effective leadership and building a team of trusted servants with the responsibility to make decisions and be accountable for the best interests of the group.